Kenya’s Big Five

Photo Credit: SaBigFive via Wikispaces

Every safari fan knows what the Big Five are – the five large animals that can be found in parts of Africa such as Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve: the lion, rhino, leopard, Cape buffalo, and elephant. These are interesting times to watch Kenya, and not just because the rainy season is soon coming to an end, bringing back the best chance to spot the Big Five on the savanna. On March 9, bitter rivals, President Uhuru Kenyatta and the opposition leader Raila Odinga, shook hands in a historic gesture meant to show willingness to overcome divisions within the country. This is a much-needed signal for the country affected by tribal divisions, and a year-long political conflict after the Supreme Court annulled President Kenyatta’s disputed electoral victory (he still won in the subsequent vote).

While the details of what the handshake deal will translate into in practical terms remain unclear, Odinga publicly threw his support behind Kenyatta’s four-point sweeping agenda for reform. Dubbed the Big Four, the reform pillars include universal healthcare, manufacturing, affordable housing, and food security. However, one more large “animal” must be tamed in order for the other four to flourish: corruption. Kenya has long been striving to bring corruption under control, and the 2016 Bribery Act, modeled on its UK counterpart, is the latest step in this direction. Still, implementing regulations remain under development and in the meantime Kenya continues to underperform in anti-corruption efforts, ranking 143rd in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

President Kenyatta made strong statements about combating corruption in support of his Big Four agenda at the Fifth Annual Devolution Conference that took place in April in Nairobi. In particular, he promised to punish graft more vigorously, saying: “Those who steal should be ready to carry their individual crosses. There will be no hiding behind cocoons, whether religious or tribal because you stole alone.” While, curbing impunity of corrupt officials would certainly help, it is not the sole element of anti-corruption success. In addition to government-led efforts, an important counterpart has to be the private sector.

Companies can – and in many cases are – taking the lead to introduce and strengthen compliance programs in order to stem the flow of bribes, trading in influence, and other forms of corruption. On my recent trip to Kenya, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a CIPE training-of-trainers workshop that brought together over 20 participants from around the continent who, in turn, are going to train local companies on doing business with integrity, regardless of their governments’ enthusiasm for anti-corruption reforms.

In Kenya, CIPE is also working with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) to support preventive measures to tackle corruption in the country. CIPE is partnering with KEPSA to develop recommended guidelines to assist companies of all sizes in implementing anti-corruption compliance procedures. KEPSA Head of Policy and Research Analysis Victor Ogalo spoke at this training workshop, explaining measures that KEPSA has taken to help combat corruption in Kenya by advocating for the Bribery Act, asking the government to only do business with those who sign the code of conduct, and support companies with improving their internal systems. As the Kenyan saying goes, Kidole kimoja hakiuwi chawa – “one finger cannot kill a louse”. It will take a concerted effort between the public and private sectors to achieve Kenya’s Big Five.

Anna Kompanek is the Director of Global Programs at CIPE